By Steve Moran
As a senior living operator, you are in a fierce fight for residents. Your competition is:
- Apathy – Just do nothing because it is easier and feels less risky than doing anything else.
- Staying at home – Because people are passionately committed to staying at home and in most of North America “staying at home”, “aging at home”, “dying at home” are all powerful metanarratives that are continually reinforced by media, friends, family, and even the government.
- Other Senior Living Options – This for sure includes other senior living communities, but also includes nontraditional options that are not home.
WHAT ARE THE ONE OR TWO THINGS THAT CAN MAKE THE BIGGEST
DIFFERENCE IN ATTRACTING AND RETAINING RESIDENTS?
Lessons from the Hotel World
In some sense, hotels are a sub-optimal parallel but it is likely the best we have. Here are some research-based lessons that have heavy implications for senior living:
- A comfortable room is the most important thing. What is curious about this is that it does not necessarily translate to a large room or even luxurious, mostly just comfortable.
- More interesting is that amenities and facilities are less important even though it is an area that gets a ton of attention from operators and developers.
- Perhaps most critical of all is friendliness and attentiveness. Residents, prospects, and families want to know they are a part of something special, part of a community. Residents need to think of communities as their home, their people, their tribe. And not just the place where they will live until they die.
- The thing that gets overlooked is to figure out the stuff you are doing now that you should stop doing. In the hotel world, most consumers would be perfectly happy to eliminate things like the gift shop, in-room dining, luggage services, even the bar, and fitness center.
It may very well be that you are doing things that almost no one cares about. Things that are costing you money and are a distraction to your team.
The big challenge here is that it mostly comes down to people, your team that are the feet on the ground. If they love working for you, for your organization, it makes those 4 lessons very doable. Ultimately if your team is not thrilled to be a part of your organization, if they are just doing what they do for a paycheck it will be tough, maybe even impossible, for you to make these things happen.